Lisa Nelson VMD
Congratulations! You have a puppy! This cute ball of fur, tail-wedcfxwags, and energy is so much fun. She will grow up into a wonderful companion and friend. But…guess what? Well-behaved dogs don't just happen; it's up to you to teach your puppy the good manners and social graces that will help her to be a joy to live with and a valued family member.
How do you get there? Here are The Top Ten basics for getting you and your puppy off to a great start.
#1. Remember to reward good behavior. Praise your puppy enthusiastically whenever he does well. If he is lying quietly chewing on his toys, tell him he is brilliant!
#2. On the other hand, do not inadvertently reward your puppy's inappropriate behavior. If your puppy is jumping on you, do not reach down to pat him or push him away, as both actions give him attention. Instead, turn away, ignore him, and then immediately praise him for not jumping on you.
#3. Preventing "bad" behavior before it happens is much more effective than correcting it after the fact. Keep shoes and socks out of your puppy's reach and provide her with an irresistible chew toy to keep her legally occupied.
#4. Don't make your puppy afraid of you by rolling him over, yelling at him, or physically punishing him. He does not know what you want him to do, does not understand our language, and is not trying to be mischievous.
#5. Successfully training your puppy means not only saying "NO!" to tell him what he should not do or have done, but more importantly telling him "YES!" when he does something well. If your puppy starts to grab a newspaper to play with, offer him a toy instead, tell him "YES!" and give lots of praise.
#6. Teach your puppy to sit. It is so easy to do with treats and praise as rewards. Once your puppy knows how to sit, then you have a wonderful way to prevent behaviors such as jumping on people or rushing out the door. It is impossible to do either if you are sitting down, and it's a great way for puppies to earn attention for doing the right thing.
#7. Set your puppy up to succeed. Don't allow her to be unsupervised in the house….in all likelihood, puppy exploration will land her in trouble. Instead, keep her on leash with you, or safely in a crate or puppy pen when you can't be watching her.
#8. Start your puppy off with a leash and flat collar right from the start. Attach a thin, light leash to your puppy's collar and let her walk around with it on, so she gets used to the leash. Make it part of her every day routine, so that she has a leash on for a few minutes many times daily in the house and always outside.
#9. Make sure that your puppy's bed, whether it's a crate or puppy pen, is in a central room in the house. Don't put his sleeping area in a spare room or basement. This isolation from the family teaches your puppy that the crate is not a good place to be, encourages barking and boredom, and does not encourage your puppy to be able to settle down with the family present.
#10. Make sure you take your puppy to your veterinarian for a physical examination, appropriate vaccinations, and deworming. Intestinal parasites are damaging to your puppy's health and can also pose human health risks. Follow your veterinarian's recommendations for deworming, diet, and vaccinations.
This is a start. There will be ups and downs for you and your puppy! Be patient, remember to praise any improvement and effort on your puppy's part, and make sure you maintain your puppy's health by regular visits to your veterinarian.
Dr. Lisa Nelson is a member of the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association. For more information visit www.vtvets.org.